Sean Kelly leadership has come under fire but read his full response to the criticism here.
I ran in the KUSU elections last year to make change within the union, and to represent students at a high university level. The voting students of KU chose me to do this, for which I was both thankful and honoured. Being an elected officer is a huge learning curve when you start as, although support and training is offered, it is still an enormous task to take on when you first begin.
I would question many of the accusations that have been laid out within the petition, and have spoken to my fellow officers about both my strengths and my weaknesses.
Out of all the elected officer positions, both full- and part-time, the role of President is often one that is behind the scenes. I spend a large amount of time in high level meetings, ensuring the student voice is heard by those who have huge influence over how your university experience rolls out. I have worked hard this year to build and develop relationships with those people and feel we have moved forward in terms of our relationship with the university, as have the other officers.
I am happy to admit that in my first few months in office I have not been able to lead as many student-facing campaigns that I would have liked, due to a high level of work behind-the-scenes and establishing relationships with colleagues and student groups. I concede that this is an area I want to build on – as things change and improve behind the scenes, I am keen to begin sharing these successes with students. This is one of the reasons I pushed for drop-ins at Kingston Hill (which we now hold weekly) – one of the main points in my original manifesto.
However, the accusation that I have done absolutely no student-facing work is unfounded. As soon as the academic year began I was the sole officer working very hard on Demo 2012, a national and hugely important piece of work feeding into not only the experience of students at KU but also across the country. I proactively approached groups of students to feed into how they wanted to run with Demo, which they did, and I was there on the front line with them as students from all over the UK stood up and made a stand.
I have chaired our Executive Committee and Trustee Board meetings this year, actively taking on board feedback and ideas from all officers and trustees, to ensure that all students are being represented in the different pockets of work that we do at KUSU. I have also encouraged students to submit motions to these committees to ensure we carry out the work you want us to be doing – and am proud to say we have passed a large amount this year. At each of these meetings I am held accountable for what I have been doing and am happy to answer questions on my work. Students have every opportunity to ask me anything about the work I do – I positively encourage it, even more so from this day forward.
I would wholly reject claims that meetings I attend with KU stakeholders have no input from other officers or KU staff. Often I attend meetings with other officers and staff, have arranged for officers to deliver presentations to key stakeholders (such as the VP Activities’ Your Campus, Your Say campaign) and have ensured that KUSU have spots on committees that previously we did not. I regularly request input from the other full time officers and always pass that on. I have also begun a very strong dialogue with Julius Weinberg, the Vice Chancellor, and meet with him once a month to make sure student views are being heard by the most influential person at the institution.
This petition has in some ways been an eye opener for me, and I have read through the allegations at length and reflected on all of them. Some of them I do not agree with, but some of them I can see I need to do some work on. I will admit that communication is not one of my strongest areas, but from this I concede I need to look at how I am communicating the good work I do personally and that KUSU does as a whole, back to the student body. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and I am happy to admit mine. I recognise that there are areas I need to work on, and with the help of my colleagues I feel certain I can do so.
I respect the fact that an officer has held me to account, and am pleased that we are strong enough as a democracy to do so. That is what student politics is all about. I welcome constructive criticism and am more than happy to develop myself as a person and as your President to ensure I am doing the job you want me to be doing. I continue to maintain a professional relationship with all my officers and am extremely proud of all the work they do.